TORONTO – This year’s All-Star Weekend has, not surprisingly, become a sendoff for soon-to-be-retired Kobe Bryant. The Western Conference team’s practice at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday afternoon was interrupted to show a video montage of Bryant’s previous 17 all-star game appearances. He was the media day darling on Friday and players on both teams have been asked multiple times, in a variety of ways, about Bryant, 37, and his impact on the sport.
John Wall was one of those players. The Washington Wizards point guard recalled – three different times during his 40 minutes with members of the media — the first time he faced Bryant in the NBA .
“I blocked his shot and he got the rebound back, scored a three, and said, ‘Play goes on, young fella,’ ” Wall said. “That was my first time playing against him at Staples Center.”
Wall, 25, admitted his favorite player growing up was Allen Iverson, who was named a finalist for the Hall of Fame on Friday. But Wall added that he watched Bryant closely and hopes to develop a relationship with him after he retires. When the Lakers went to Washington and beat the Wizards in November behind 31 points from Bryant, the two struck up a conversation as the teams walked off the court. Wall, who spends much of his offseason in Los Angeles, wants to resume it this summer.
“He said, ‘You know where to find me any time,’ ” said Wall, whose Wizards will face Bryant one final time on March 27 in Los Angeles. “So I definitely will call him this summer and talk to him and just pick his brain and see how I can become a better player and all the hard work and dedication he did. That’s one person, you can see that sacrificed everything and put it to the side and put the love of basketball first.”
Wall said his right knee, which he bruised in Thursday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, is good to go for Sunday’s All-Star Game and his objective is clear: To win MVP. But that will be a tall task with Bryant, the odds-on favorite to claim the award, on the floor.
“I think a lot of people are going to go at him,” Wall said. “I think it’s going to be one of those games where early on he’s going to get about 10 shots in five minutes. He’s definitely going to try to win MVP. It’s going to be a lot of fun, a lot of excitement with his last ride. He’s probably going to have a great tribute.”